Similar fact evidence, conflict, competing principles, law of evidence, evidence of high probative value, criminal trials, potential for prejudice
Similar fact evidence raises in a particularly acute form the conflict between two competing principles in the law of evidence. On the one hand, the principle that evidence of high probative value ought to be admitted. On the other, the principle that in criminal trials evidence possessing a significant potential for prejudice ought, in the interests of fairness, to be excluded. The expression "similar fact evidence" is here used broadly to refer to all evidence which shows that on some other occasion the accused acted in a way more or less similar to the way in which the prosecution alleges he acted on the occasion which is the subject of the present charge. Such evidence is, clearly, frequently of great probative value. Equally, such evidence constitutes the example par excellence of evidence possessing a potential for prejudice.
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C. R. Williams, “The Problem of Similar Fact Evidence” (1979) 5:2 DLJ 281.